Fear Of Failure

VARIABLES
Fear of failure is a “…2-factor construct that comprises (a) negative expectation, in which individuals worry about possible pitfalls, and (b) reflexivity, in which individuals put forth efforts to prevent possible pitfalls.” (Lim, 2009: 318). The variables considered in this theory are anxiety, expectations and the outcome.

DOMAINS: Psychology, Education, Business, Sports


ContributorBonny Lee Anderson
School of Information Studies
Syracuse University
    
DEVELOPERS
David McClelland, John Atkinson, and William Glasser

BACKGROUND

Fear of failure (FF) manifests itself in several ways. The most common form of FF is procrastination. A student puts off doing a report because they fear the criticism they will receive if their paper is subpar. This is a basic example of procrastination, you postpone or delay completing the assigned task because of the possibility of failure (Schraw, 2007: 12).

A second form of FF is defensive pessimism. A student approaches a project expecting to fail so they take their time and plan out their strategy. Defensive pessimism initiates the planning process for the project and their efforts are focused on preventing failure. “Researchers have found defensive pessimism – a self-protection cognitive strategy involved in the achievement endeavor that entails setting expectations lower than realistic estimates and thinking through all possible outcomes… - help individuals reduce their anxiety during task performance…” (Lim, 2009: 318). Unlike procrastination defensive pessimism can be positive and lead to higher results of success.

The third form of FF is performance or test anxiety (Putwain & Daniels, 2010: 8). For example, a business professional is nervous before a big presentation that can make or break their career. This is also called stage fright and is associated with an anxiety or fear that manifests itself before or during participation in a public presentation or event. The presenter fears that they will stumble through their presentation or an actor fears that they will forget their lines during a performance. These are two further examples of performance anxiety.

FF has been approached by many people in the field of psychology. David McClelland included FF in his theory of needs. FF falls under McClelland’s third need; the need for achievement (n Ach). According to McClelland people are driven by the challenge of success and FF. In the 1960s John Atkinson expanded upon McClelland’s theory of needs. Atkinson proposed that differences in achievement behavior are due to differences in the n Ach. Atkinson stated that individuals with a high need for achievement have a greater expectation of success than they have fear of failure. These people anticipate a feeling of pride and accomplishment at the completion of the task. These individuals are known as high-need achievers. They seek tasks that are somewhat challenging and expect a level of success equal to the challenge. Low-need achievers, on the other hand avoid challenging tasks because their fear of failure is greater than their expectation for success. These individuals anticipate shame rather than pride at the completion of the task. Low need-achievers usually take one of two routes when choosing a task. They choose an easy task because they are more likely to succeed or they choose an extremely difficult task because there will be less shame if the goal was unobtainable (Snowman & Biehler, 2008).
REFERENCES ~ Coding Spreadsheet - Web View

  • Chen, L., Wu, C., Kee, Y., Lin, M., & Shui, S.. (2009). Fear of failure, 2×2 achievement goal and self-handicapping: An examination of the hierarchical model of achievement motivation in physical education. Contemporary Educational
    Psychology, 34(4), 298-305. Abstract: This study focuses on integrating the "classic" and "contemporary" approaches to achievement motivation: A hierarchical model of approach and avoidance achievement motivation.

  • Cox, R. (2009). “It Was Just That I Was Afraid.” Promoting Success by Addressing Students' Fear of Failure. Community College Review, 37(1), 52-80. Abstract: Following a semester long study of community college students this article examines how the fear of failure shapes student’s behavior.

  • Lim, L.(2009). A Two-Factor Model of Defensive Pessimism and Its Relations With Achievement Motives. The Journal of Psychology, 143 (3), 318-36. Abstract: Lim examines the underlying structure of defensive pessimism and its relations with achievement motives in 2 studies involving 542 Singaporean undergraduate students.
    ABSTRACT:
    Lim examines the underlying structure of defensive pessimism and its relations with achievement motives in 2 studies involving 542 Singaporean undergraduate students.

  • Protheroe, N. (2010). Boosting Students' Can-Do Attitude. Principal (Reston, Va.), 40-4. Abstract: This article discusses the role of teachers in intensifying students’ self-belief in their ability to learn. Students with high self-efficacy exhibit confidence and control in their approach, while low-efficacy candidates may avoid a task for fear of failure.

  • Putnam, D. and Daniels, R. (2010). Is the Relationship Between Competence Beliefs and Test Anxiety Influenced By Goal Orientation? Learning and Individual Differences, 20 (1), 8-13. Abstract: This study examines whether the relationship between competence beliefs and test anxiety are moderated by achievement goals.
    ABSTRACT:This study examines whether the relationship between competence beliefs and test anxiety are moderated by achievement goals.

  • Reiss, S.. "Six Motivational Reasons for Low School Achievement." Child & Youth Care Forum 38, no. 4 (August 1, 2009): 219-225. http://www.proquest.com.libezproxy2.syr.edu/ (accessed September 22, 2010).Abstract: This suggests six motivational reasons for low academic achievement in school. Low achievement may be motivated by fear of failure, incuriosity, lack of ambition, spontaneity, lack of responsibility and combativeness.

  • Schraw, G. (2007). Doing the Things We Do: A Grounded Theory of Academic Procratinastion. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99 (1), 12-25. Abstract: A study of academic procrastination that explores adaptive and maladaptive aspects of procrastination.
    ABSTRACT: A study of academic procrastination that explores adaptive and maladaptive aspects of procrastination. 
  • Snowman, J. and Biehler, R. (2008). Psychology Applied to Teaching. Florence, KY: Wadsworth Publishing.
    ABSTRACT: This text focuses on applied, practical, and student oriented approaches in educational psychology.
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